Sciatica is a symptom of a problem with the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. It controls muscles in the back of your knee and lower leg and provides feeling to the back of your thigh, part of your lower leg, and the sole of your foot. When you have sciatica, you have pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling. It can start in the lower back and extend down your leg to your calf, foot, or even your toes. It's usually on only one side of your body.
Causes of sciatica include
- A ruptured intervertebral disk
- Narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerve, called spinal stenosis
- An injury such as a pelvic fracture.
In many cases no cause can be found.
Sometimes sciatica goes away on its own. Treatment, if needed, depends on the cause of the problem. It may include exercises, medicines, and surgery.
- Tarlov Cysts (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) - Short Summary
Health Check Tools
- Chronic Back Pain (DSHI Systems)
- Spinal Fusion Surgery for Relief of Chronic Lower Back Pain (OR-Live) - Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Shawnee Mission, KS, 3/05/2014
Statistics and Research
- Treating Back-Related Leg Pain with Spinal Manipulation and Home Exercise (American College of Physicians) - PDF
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Sciatica (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Find a Physical Therapist (American Physical Therapy Association)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Available in Spanish